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About the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship

Posted by Christina Kostelecky at Sep 06, 2017 08:30 AM |
In late 2015, the PASA team met with the founders of the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) to talk about a partnership. At that time, DGA was the only formalized apprenticeship in agriculture. PASA was interested in bringing this program to Pennsylvania, to help strengthen and expand a system of dairy farming that has not only proven to have economic viability, but can also be viewed as sustainable and regenerative, both ecologically and socially...
About the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship

Joe Babiasz- a Master Grazier

PASA’s work with the first accredited apprenticeship in agriculture

In late 2015, the PASA team met with the founders of the Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) to talk about a partnership. At that time, DGA was the only formalized apprenticeship in agriculture. PASA was interested in bringing this program to Pennsylvania, to help strengthen and expand a system of dairy farming that has not only proven to have economic viability, but can also be viewed as sustainable and regenerative, both ecologically and socially.

DGA was begun in Wisconsin by a group of dairy farmers, some of whom wanted to train managers for their own farms, some of whom wanted to pass their farm onto a new generation, and some of whom simply wanted to mentor people who were motivated to become dairy graziers, themselves. More than a training program, DGA was seen by these founders as a way to help sustain and reinvigorate small to mid-scale family farms, in turn revitalizing the rural communities that have traditionally been centered on such enterprises. They viewed the small farm as the essential building block upon which all the industries that serve local food systems--from tractor dealers to feed and seeds, to the schools and services that any community develops to function properly--rest. In short, these farmers were not just looking to train the next generation of dairy farmers, they were looking to help sustain their culture and communities, moving forward.

SOIL & DGA

This understanding of the farmers that began DGA-- that the social, economic, and ecological sustainability of a farm is not only inseparable within the farm system, but is also inextricably linked to the health and welfare of the community surrounding that farm--is central to PASA’s vision, as well. From this place, the partnership between DGA and PASA was natural.

In 2016, PASA became the administrative partner for DGA in Pennsylvania and the mid-Atlantic region, including New Jersey. Since that time, we have had nine Master Graziers enroll in the DGA program, and 25 Apprentice applicants in the region, three of whom have matched with a Master Grazier. We’ve partnered with the PA Grazing Lands Coalition across the state, helping to facilitate over a dozen grazing events--from pasture walks to seminars on dairy economics.

Master GrazierFarmCounty
Brian Moyer Moyer's Dairy Farm Bradford
Gay Rodgers Hameau Farm Centre
Lamar Wadel Wadel's Dairy Franklin
Dwight Stoltzfoos SpringWood Organic Farm Lancaster
Forrest Stricker Spring Creek Farms Berks
Mark Lopez Wholesome Dairy Farms Berks
Neil Hertzler Rock Hollow Dairy Perry
Jonathan White Bobolink Dairy & Bakehouse Hunterdon (NJ)

Joe Babiasz making cheese

We’ve also formed a partnership with the Center for Dairy Excellence, aspiring to get young people internship opportunities on grass-based dairies, and to help provide Master Graziers and Apprentices with business consulting services. The USDA Agricultural Research Service has also come on board to work with grazing dairies in the application of their farm system modeling software, and to help both current as well as future graziers analyze their farm management decisions.

The average age of the American farmer is near 60; the need to train new farmers is urgent. By working in partnership with the people and organizations that are already playing such a vital role in our dairy community, PASA looks forward to helping grow the next generation of grass-based dairy farmers, in both Pennsylvania and beyond.

By Aaron de Long, Delaware Valley Hub Manager & Dairy Grazing Apprenticeship (DGA) Coordinator in Pennsylvania
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